Adolphus Stevens (not his real name) was arrested by Port St. Lucie police on 4/17/17 for possession under 20 grams of cannabis and for possession of drug paraphernalia. Stevens made the mistake, you see, of walking across a vacant lot in broad daylight in a residential area. Several minutes later, a PSLPD officer detained and searched Stevens. Following the arrest, Stevens retained Port Saint Lucie drug possession lawyer Jeffrey Garland.
Port Saint Lucie criminal defense attorney Jeffrey Garland spotted the lack of reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Garland filed a motion alleging that the detention and search were conducted in violation of the Defendant’s right to remain free from unreasonable search and seizures.
The motion to suppress anticipated that police would argue that Stevens was detained under the loitering and prowling statute; and that the pat down of Stevens was just part of a protective sweep.
Police did claim exactly those two justifications at the 7/17/17 hearing before St. Lucie County Judge Kathryn Nelson. However, the police could not articulate why it would be suspicious for a pair of 18-year-olds to walk in broad daylight across an unfenced and unposted vacant lot.
Apart from the lack of reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the defense maintained that there was no probable cause for police to believe Stevens was armed. The defense pointed to multiple cases holding that a pat-down is improper, under the circumstances in this case, without such probable cause to believe Stevens was armed.
Judge Nelson agreed and entered an order suppressing all evidence on 8/1/17. The State wisely chose to drop the charges on 8/4/17.
Our society struggles to balance constitutional rights with the need for police investigation. In this case, the police could not present sufficient reasons to overcome Stevens’ constitutional rights. Each case is dependent upon its own circumstances. If you or a loved one have recently been charged on a similar offense, contact Jeffrey H. Garland, P.A. today at (772) 242-6380.